USMC Ball season is here: The more you know

USMC Ball Season is here and that said, we are under one month away from the 244th Birthday of the most elite fighting force in all of the lands, the United States Marine Corps. Within this piece are some tips, suggestions and last minute “the more you know, the better you,” are pointers.

The U.S. Marine Corps Birthday celebrates the history, memory of those who served before and rekindles the bond that unites all generations of Marines. It is a celebration of the profound respect for the Marine Corps traditions and reverence of the heritage that distinguishes the Corps of Marines.- Military Benefits

Each year, generally in October, the “Ermahgerd, I need a dress” crunch-time fest begins. As a proud and seasoned Marine wife, I totally get it. It’s only the biggest night of celebration of the entire year in our marine family lifestyle, right? It’s like prom to the infinite capacity of all adulting powers. Seriously, it’s not prom but it is a hardcore adult celebration.

Well, here’s a few things that I have learned and seen not go well over the years and a few duty stations. As well as there are a few things that I honestly don’t understand after all this time, why anyone cares or complains yet there have been a few moments that have made my head spin.

Let’s get down to it:

Alcohol- Drink responsibly. 

No spouse, nor any marine should show up to the ball  severely intoxicated and you should also refrain from leaving that way. Get dressed at the hotel nearby and decide to have a cocktail or two before heading over? Totally fine, if you are walking over, otherwise call Uber, Lyft or phone a sober buddy. If you are attempting to leave a venue to travel home, don’t forget to use your “Arrive Alive Card,” they’re there for a reason. I wouldn’t recommend it driving for obvious reasons of the law. I say this because in Greenville for example, there’s a hotel attached to the convention center and you can walk over. I always recommend staying as close to the venue as possible to be able to walk safely to and from if you plan to take this route of cocktails before cocktail hour. I understand this because let’s be super honest here, it is more fiscally responsible (cheaper) to consume responsibly the adult beverages of your choice at your hotel room than to purchase by the drink from the bar at the ball.

Another point to make here is, don’t blow your whole paycheck on the ball and spouses that includes you. Don’t overspend trying to impress other marines, spouses/girlfriends or superiors. The ball is one night and you will have to eat next week, put in gas, and if you have kids- their field trip, lunch money is still due, daycare fees and that grocery bill won’t pay itself. Don’t dig a financial hole right before the holiday’s to celebrate the biggest USMC holiday of them all. Be responsible financially and consumption of alcohol wise. I’ve witnessed younger marines show up pretty intoxicated, as well as spouses and completely wasted by the end of the ceremony because the quick and heavy consumption caught up to them. Your command will not be pleased and if you are one who is already on thin ice, this definitely is the time to be on your best representation of the corps.

Does the dress matter?

Oh you can bet your first born and a vital organ it does! Please, for the love of God, 7lb-4oz-21in long baby Jesus, and the peace of Buddha please do dress according to your spouses uniform requirements in any military function. Don’t show up to the birthday ball in arm with your marine in dress blues and you are in a club dress fit for a rump shaking contest, a sundress fit for a pig pickin’ and a pie baking contest, don’t wear your Sunday’s best- I know it’s modest and you only had the whole year to find a dress suitable for the one night a year your husband’s career of service is celebrated on earth and in heaven. (Sigh in sarcasm) Seriously, go get a floor length formal dress, it is the standard to accompany the dress blues uniform. It can be bridesmaid style, something inexpensive from Ross or TJMaxx, honestly, they have some really great finds and won’t rob the bank. Focus more on accessories to enhance a simple solid dress if you feel it isn’t “formal” enough. Male guest standard is to wear a suit and tie or a tuxedo.

Stella McCartney Sweetheart Neckline Gown
Stella McCartney Sweetheart Neckline Gown

Example of a simple and acceptable dress with nicely placed accessories is shown, a similar dress can be purchased on Amazon for an affordable price with two-day shipping for Prime members. Can’t afford a new dress, ask around to see if anyone has one you can borrow or rent from them and please do the right thing and return the dress in the condition you received it. You can also add a simple belt  with rhinestones or a satin band to a plain dress like this and make it appeal more to your taste.

Can I wear a formal that has patterns/print on it?

Well sure you can, but the question is to gauge off of is how would you feel if your photo in it ended up circulating the internet for weeks after the ball and years to come as to what not to wear? Does it compliment your marines dress blues? Seriously, the great photos don’t go viral, only the bad ones in a drama-filled society. Honestly, I’ve seen chevron satin and sequined, floor length gowns. I wore a Jovani zebra print gown one year myself but my husband approved and actually selected the dress. I would advise against some extreme prints and especially text printed. I know how much many of us Americans absolutely adore and love our 45th President Donald J. Trump but please don’t wear exhibit A to the lower left for example. Believe me, people will talk to you, maybe even take some instagood “usies” for Instagram and all the perks but you will be talked about, likely not in a positive way.

The 59th GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals
Photo Credit-GettyImages

What would be in line of the standard with print in mind? 

I know, kind of hard coming from the woman who just admitted to wearing zebra print to a birthday ball? Well it shouldn’t be. I will share that photo in this piece before it’s over.

Here’s an example of a gorgeous, A-line, print that accents the dress blues and wait for it, $99.00 on PromGirl.com

print 1
PromGirl.com $99.00

Now, I know, I know, we don’t all have the body type for that dress and it might not be available in your size. But the point is, we have placed so much stigma on the ball dress, whose wife did what, what marine made a pass at who and who got in trouble, I believe many have forgotten what it is about to begin with. This is a celebration of the establishment of the USMC in 1775, it is an honor, it is respect, a time of reflection on those who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, a time of building unity and comradery. These are not only sought amongst marines themselves, but in our community in general over the last 244-years of service amongst the most admired and revered branch in the world, the US Marine Corps. Lest we forget, it is a privilege to be a part of these events as well as this lifestyle, though we may not always realize it.

Amazon has this pretty floral print as well with great reviews, always read reviews.

Mean Girls aka Stepford Wives, this part is for you.

Instead of standing around with your noses turned up in the, “investment dress” you wear every 3rd year or the one you ordered from Rent the Runway to look snazzy for more money than you could have just bought a dress at a consignment shop that has also already been worn while you judge “Jr. Spouses” for showing a little leg or an exposed collarbone. Don’t get me wrong, absolutely nothing wrong with Rent the Runway, it’s the attitude described that is an issue. Someone call the paddy wagon if one of these uptight, self-righteous, scrutinizing Spanx lines showing or gawking in questioning is that a roll or is she pregnant, miserable trolls gone wild if they see a tattoo exposed women start with you. (Hope you got a chuckle, seriously, it isn’t this bad- it’s honestly a dying breed.) Moving on here, everyone has a different personality, everyone has their own style of fashion and it’s okay to show that through what you wear to the birthday ball. You do not have to be forced into a dress that is equivalent to someone’s mother-of-the-bride-dress. You can be sexy, feel confident and look respectful. Now grant it, no we don’t want any of your body parts escaping or anatomy questioned as it creeps out. Honestly, the bend test usually solves everything. If you can bend over and your entire bosom is visible, plops right out, that dress is probably not a wise selection. In short, if you bend over and your breasts or dairy air come out, stay home if you cannot find another dress. There’s no other way to put that nicely because mini-dresses are not birthday ball acceptable. Use common sense.

Tattoos/scars

You don’t need to cover your tattoos, it’s a part of you now. However, if it is something offensive that would go against USMC standards of conduct, I would suggest covering it. Of course if you would just like to, there’s a waterproof concealer on Amazon (Prime) for $24.99 that is great for covering scars and tattoos. As far as scars go, I believe they are proof something attacked and didn’t win so I wear my few scars proudly. If it is something that would make you more confident by covering, go for it. This event is about feeling your best and being your best.

Ceremony

The ceremony is the most important part of the ball, it is an intimate ceremony (I don’t mean time to make out with your marine) and unless you cannot stand at all, you stand for any portion instructed to stand, sit when told to be seated and remain quiet. This is not the time for laughing with your sister wife (spouse friend), fix each others dress straps or to fix each others hair. Wait until the ceremony is over and then go to the restroom. This usually lasts around an hour, the cake is cut, the reading of Gen. John A. Lejeune’s birthday message, speeches and the current Commandant’s birthday message over a large screen. You should be seated prior to the start of the ceremony, silence your phone, refrain from texting and please don’t scroll social media during the ceremony. Photography is permitted at some events but please check to make sure it is acceptable at your event this year. Just because it was okay last year, doesn’t mean it is this year. Then there’s dinner served, most times your marine picks your meals in advance, so you already know what you are having and is usually a three-course meal. Following dinner, the dancefloor is opened to get down. Once everyone has had their fill in uniform and fancy dresses, it’s time to change clothes and find a nearby establishment for the after-party if you wish or head home.

Be yourself.

You don’t have to fake it to make it at the ball. There are spouses/significant others just like you there and there will be those who are polar opposite and that is okay. Remember when your spouse introduces you to people to say, good evening sir/ma’am as a reflection of respect to command.  If the zebra print or floral print dress is you, go for it. Just remember, you are always a reflection of your marine and if he/she is happy with your dress, you should be too. Shoes wise, if you can wear high heels, wear them, if you cannot, don’t. Wear nice, clean dress shoes that will complement your attire, stiletto’s are not required. When we look good, we feel good and so do our marines. Want to find the best dress for your body type? I got ‘cha covered.

wedding_dress_to_suit_body_shape_oomphelicious-wordpress-com
Photo Credit: Oomphelicious WordPress

Hair/Makeup. 

No need in spending hundreds of dollars on hair coloring, styling, clip-in or bonded extensions if it is not something you already do or have planned to do. Most spouses like their hair and make-up to look nice but trust me, you can do it yourself with a good YouTube tutorial if you aren’t very skilled or call up your friend who is and go for it. Not confident in your YouTube University skill set? No worries. An alternative to salon costs is Miller-Motte College’s Cosmetology Clinic, you can get a full head of highlights for $35 if you want color, acrylic nails for $20 and brow tinting for $5. There are several options for makeup around town if you just want to go that route. (Several MUA’s  recommended on Camp Lejeune Spouses FB group.)

Hair don’t’s

Steer from dying your hair hot pink before the ball to stand out or jumping into a rainbow mohawk for the cause. Colored hair can be done tastefully and I personally am a big fan but save it for after the ball if it is something like this mohawk below. I think you can catch my drift here.

rainbow mohawk
Photo Credit: Ebay

Bring on the beautiful plums, shades of reds, auburns, bold blondes, colored highlights to accent tastefully to your liking. Most of all ladies and gentlemen, remember, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” -Coco Chanel. Even with all of these “standards,” you can still be yourself.

As long as you feel confident, your husband approves and he gives you that eye in the dress– you know the hanky-panky eye, wear the dress and be one of the many reasons he is proud on this joyous occasion. In case no one has told you yet, “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.” – Marines Hymn. That verse alone is reason to be your best self.

For more information, I suggest taking on one of the L.I.N.K.S classes that can help better understand the standards and how to navigate through this lifestyle more easily visit MCCS New River LINKS.

Oh, and about that Jovani Zebra Print dress, check it out below. JOVANI I gave the dress away 3-years-ago. Speaking of which, I have a number of gowns to get rid of ranging size 6-14 and if interested in seeing them, send an email or comment on one of the social media posts, they’ll be free, paying it forward so please do the same.

 

 

Editor’s Note: My marine is approaching 20-years of active duty service and this is our last birthday celebration with him in active service. It is a bittersweet time in our lives, the USMC has taught us both as well as our children so much through travels, learning resiliency through deployments, and being open to building in communities we wouldn’t be in long enough to unpack all the boxes. We have made friends who are around the globe and we have memories to last infinite lifetimes. I pray that the stigma and negative attitudes amongst spouses continues to cease and the future communities here and abroad learn to embrace each other just as we are. We are all uniquely, individually made just as God intended us to be. Trust me, if your marine (God-forbid) is called off to serve in war suddenly, you won’t care what the next spouse has on as those buses pull away and your children are screaming in tears for daddy, while you wipe your own tears or hold them back. In those moments, you will only care about who can help you maintain life, you will unite and you will understand what this community truly is about. So I hope in some way, this opinion piece helps you in some way, if nothing but a laugh or two. I am a former MCBH LINKS Mentor, FRA and MOPS teacher. I am thankful for those “Seasoned Spouses” who embraced me on our first round at Camp Lejeune and changed my prior perspective on military wives. Heather, Danielle 1 & 2 (D1 & D2), and Paula, you were inspiration for me to be the spouse I have matured into and the spouse I am today though now I have retired early as a FRA but volunteering nonetheless in the community. Hea, thanks for being there since the day we met and never being “that officers wife”, you were always approachable, accessible and a darn good hurricane shelter even after 10-years. Blessed to have you as a friend forever. Lady Phantoms what was that? My tribe, the women that completed my soul in this journey. From First Friday’s to garages after (love you April), to being lost on hikes in the native lands of Oahu with failing limbs to zip lining fearlessly hundreds of feet in the air, having each other’s backs on and off the field. We were a life team and K-Bay’s 1st sweethearts, never forget it! Ju-Not a Jew, Ash-sweets, Nelly, Jen, Hutch, DQ, Kell, Reesa, Britt, Jos’… you all know who you are, even unnamed. Here’s to 20 in 2020, it’s not the end, just a new chapter beginning. Take care of the Corps and it will take care of you.  Lastly, to my husband, thank you for inviting me on this journey of life and service .-M. Oakley, Reporter & Blogger 

If you enjoyed this, give it a like or leave a comment, don’t forget- sharing is caring.

The Stranger Danger of Community Conversations

Yesterday my husband had surgery (went well and he’s beginning a swift recovery and stronger today) and meanwhile there, I ran out to get him gym shorts and to the pharmacy to go ahead and have his meds done on discharge from surgery. Thankfully I did that, because it only took an hour and a half to complete that mission alone. Yes, you read that right.

 Anyways, I was waiting in the hallway with other military spouses, active duty and retirees etc. Being the chatterbox I am, I engaged in conversation with two other spouses close by. We began to talk about what other duty stations we have lived at during the course of our husbands careers, most recent ones prior and comparisons. There was a hospital staff member that suggested we could sit and talk in the cafe, grab a lunch or something to drink and watch the screen there for our tickets to be called for getting prescriptions picked up. So we did just that. Mind you, we were total strangers, never asked each other’s names or anything come to think of it now but we did learn each other’s ticket numbers to help notice if one of us was called while the other not paying attention or stepped away. 

Rewind a few minutes before though. While in the hallway we shared our hometowns, distances we travel to see family and friends in other places, how it is to live around military bases, on bases, the behavior in age differences between all aforementioned, the housing markets and feeling stuck on potentially having to take losses if selling now or futuristically. One from PA, one from WNC like me.

While in the cafe, we began to talk about healthcare, foods and life in general. We got into a discussion on allergies and illnesses that people don’t think about. The one lady expressed her serious concern about dairy allergies because she has one. So severe that she wanted wings like I ordered but she was fearful they’d been fried in grease with mozzarella sticks or something dairy wise and she’d suffer later. That sent a lightbulb off in my head!! A green light at that because it made me think, wait, I’m lactose intolerant and I can’t do dairy without suffering consequences myself and sometimes I can eat things that aren’t dairy products but suffer identical pain and symptoms!

(This isn’t a dairy and allergy deal, keep reading- it’s life lessons!) I expressed thanks to her for that because I feel a connection is there in that. They both had similar ideas on how mediocre medical care on bases can be, even off base, some Drs just won’t tell you the in depth of preventing symptoms or things to avoid and we have to be our own advocates for care. I told them I totally agreed with them and told them how I live with an invisible illness and told them about Chiari Malformation and the surgery I had two months ago, then of course they looked stunned and I showed them my battle scar (surgical scar) and they sighed in amazement that I’m up and living life like it’s golden, one said “that’s pretty bad ass of you, you go!” I shared facts of Chiari etc and how it’s hard to find a specialist.

We then talked about children, our children’s schools, social lives changing moving here, positives and negatives alike. We discussed drugstores and how the costs of medications vary from pharmacy to pharmacy and which were inexpensive and don’t make you wait for days like where we were at the time.

Our numbers began to get called. The other girl from WNC was called first, then the girl from PA, then I was called soon after. As we began to part ways, we said our farewells and thanks for having conversations and wished each other a great day.

Still wondering where this is going right? Ok. See, when I was in the hallway there were many people! A diverse group of people and strangers for the most part with exception of a few who were staff members who knew each other, a man and his service dog, a man and his spouse. Various races, genders, ethnicities. But for the most part, everyone was standing silently glued to their phone screens, looking as if they hoped that nobody was going to begin talking to them. And here we were smack in the middle, two blondes and a mixed breed (Me) who began a conversation about how long we were set to wait and the new system to scan ID cards to get scripts but it grew into so much more and fast.

If only we could be like that everyday, everyone not just some people. But willing to give others a chance, willing to listen to others and just be kind! See, there were women in the hallway that were the same race as me, but when I passed by and said hello, they looked at me like “do you know her?” To each other and responded with an ole dry “hey”, “hello”, or a seemingly hesitant hand wave.

There was another lady right by us, beautiful woman with perfectly caramel colored skin and she looked terrified that we would possibly start talking to her. (lol) But she was listening to us bc she would occasionally look our ways. The seed was planted to not fear engagement with our peers. Every friend was a stranger when you first met them. Everybody that “matches you” won’t engage with you or connect.

But what we accomplished was this, an extraordinary example of how if we take strangers from different walks of life, different ages, races and put them in an environment where they have to talk or be bored with themselves, put down the devices that have become distractions from people but more into the media’s perception- we might learn from each other, we might be able to talk to each other, we might have an understanding of what each persons views are in life, what each is facing, how someone else has experienced life in different demographics and geographic locations. The endless possibilities there!

If only we could have the same kind of open conversations about how this allergy of adversity, plague of prejudice, rash of racial tension and terminal terrorism that has built a plaque in the hearts and minds of many generations in this country. Because everyone has an ailment of it in some form whether it’s internal or external links, it’s there. We killed the concept that all we have now is divide! We disrupted the regularly scheduled news and put on a reality series live with diversity working in positivity. We chose to connect and support the next person with encouragement and kindness.

When is the last time you talked to a stranger?

By Design.

My grandmother used to have an old singer sewing machine and of course the only way that you could sew on the sewing machine was to mash the pedal and keep it going by using your foot creating manual power. Well, if you were trying to sit down at this machine and just sew on it without using the foot pedal, expecting battery or electrical action, you can guarantee that needle would not move. But if you put a little action and labor into the process you’re guaranteed to be able to run the thread and create whatever you desire because the design of this machine.

See, A lot like us as people by design as we have an individual purpose, it takes particular action to drive our purpose. Some of us by design are better bakers, made to be lawyers, made to be artists, made to be doctors, maybe you were made to be a servant and/or volunteer being a philanthropist, maybe you were designed to minister, maybe you were designed to be a firefighter, maybe you were designed to be a writer but whatever your design is there is something that is required to take place an order for your design to complete your purpose.

When we really look at it, the thing is so many of us are unaware of our design and we’re also unaware of our purpose for so long that we are fueled by the wrong things that keep sending us the wrong direction we continue to function incorrectly. Have you ever just tried something to try something out, only for you try something else and seemingly everything you do it just doesn’t work out doesn’t feel right and that’s because it’s not your purpose and it’s not in your design to do? Yes, you may even be good at it, you may even feel good doing it but deep inside there something that tells us as individuals that well I’m good at it and I making good money or I’m getting recognized at work, maybe even promoted, a raise or whatever but it’s just not a good fit completely there still a few pieces of a problem rooted deep within. Example, I have a friend who’s a Marine, she’s a bodybuilder, fitness instructor as well. Bro, I don’t even lift currently! So, if I went to fill in for her fitness class it would be a flop! I’m not designed to do that, I have no desire or calling to do that, it isn’t my purpose. I would stick out like a sore thumb. First of all, my current lack of muscle tone would give it away that I cannot teach them anything today and not for a while if I wanted to!

No matter the environment you could have placed my grandmothers Singer sewing machine in, it would’ve still been a sewing machine! You couldn’t have baked bread with it because you put dough on it, you couldn’t have canned jelly with it because you put some mason jars on it, you couldn’t have ironed clothes with it just because you warmed up the needle, you couldn’t have watched your favorite show on it just because we put it where the TVs antenna would reach it. And that’s like us no matter what environment you place us in, we will always be designed for one purpose whether we walk in it or not. I remember when my grandmother stopped sewing she used the sewing machine as a piece of decor and a table piece for other antique items but it was still designed for sewing. So no, matter if you do what you’re meant to do, follow your dreams and so on, you will still be what you’re supposed to be on this earth for. Just don’t allow your purpose to sit and collect dust when you hit a few kinks in the road like Grandma retired her machine instead of getting it repaired. Don’t deny yourself the opportunities to grow taking classes, learn new skills and ways to build in the right direction. Even if it’s one step at a time, live by design.

You talk by Faith, I’ll walk by Faith. (Individual healing)

Individual Healing Since I have been diagnosed with CM1, preparation for surgery and especially since post op, I have found that I am being offered much unwanted and unwarranted advice and I’ve seen it happen to others who have dealt with this before me. As well as it does for other people with chronic illnesses. I’m gonna take a leap and get this off my chest. See, none of us are the same, none of us have identical experiences with the disorder, none of us have the same willpower, support or experiences with daily life. What has happened to you, worked for you, benefited you, hindered you, set you back, failed you, what your Dr told you, or what a shared Dr said likely will not be an identical deal to walk through the finish line. Because you have struggled doesn’t mean that the next newbies will. Not everyone has as much chaos in their condition as many others, sometimes a person might have a very simple case and be healed in no time and others will face a number of surgeries and rehabilitation. But it’s sad that this is where you see the jealousy and envy come in on many cases. There are people who will warn others to not do this and that or you better do this or that or you’ll have a setback because to them it’s unfair that they’re not doing as well, haven’t done as well. Well, perhaps that stony heart posture is why you’re still battling so hard. Learn to celebrate others victories and not assume that they aren’t doing what’s best for them as individuals. And of course there’s those who truly mean well and simply worry about everyone and everything but they usually speak the least often. See, before I got sick, hiking, running, walking, beaching, outdoors life with music in my ears was my release besides working. When I was forced to do less of those things, it took a toll on mind and spirit. The blessings always flowed to me to feel energized and refreshed by being outside in nature. Now post op, I’m making time daily to get outdoors and connect with the universe and God. I have not put my hiking boots back on, but hubs did buy me some new adidas slip on sneakers because it’s helping build my ability to walk steady and rebuild my arches. Furthermore, I don’t have to bend down to tie the shoes up because bending is a no go for post op! See, some of you have seen me post pics of victories claimed yet you’re unaware of the battle for that victory, and you assume. You see me at a lookout in the mountains and assume I’ve hiked the blue ridge mountains and the parking lot is right in eye shot and I literally just had a small venture of faith. I’m just trying to understand how some of you in the same breath can speak of faith but discourage the action of faith. Because I thought faith without works was dead. What someone else might not be able to do or couldn’t do, another might be able to do at a higher capacity just fine, and why? We are different people and probably have different lifestyles and habits anyways. Just as I was warned that I was going to need to have outside food brought in because the hospital food was “healthy and bland” and that simply wasn’t the case. Well it was a healthy option and Park Ridge is an active vegan, plant based nutritional center but they do have meat! The apple wood chicken bacon was delicious!! I usually have turkey bacon but I’m now looking for chicken bacon. I’ve lived off of plants,fruits, nuts and seafood for the most part for the last 6 months with very few exceptions to that. #PracticallyPescaterian But that’s an example of assumptions because you can’t possibly know a persons diet preferences by looking at them. There’s things people post that I know I could never do right now especially but I still wholeheartedly cheer for them because I want people to be great and great at being themselves!! I’m not a know it all,I am not a doctor either, yet I have certainly read so much prior to this surgery because usually everything bad that can happen… usually happens to me! I’ve only had two surgeries before this, one was a tubal ligation and the other a hernia repair and both times my heart cut a donkey! One of which my heart stopped all together! I know I need to walk some every day because it’s a part of my rehabilitation at home, and it’s also combatting the risk of me having a DVT (blood clot) as I’ve had a history with post op before. I have orders from my neurosurgeon to stretch and exercise particular methods daily and I do that. I’m not going against his orders for what any fellow person thinks because they have had an entirely different experience and in most cases an entirely different doctor and an entirely different case of Chiari. But if I sit here and listen to most of you all, I would be tied to the bed with rope and duct tape and using a bedside potty and end up with a clot that’s a whole new beast in its own right. Some of you have a huge, readily available, extremely supportive and and actively hands on type families and friends so you can have your lay around days for weeks on end and you can stay in bed because that’s what you’re used to anytime you feel bad anyway, but not all of us can and we won’t! Does this mean we are not taking our own healing process seriously or that we are not responsible patients? Certainly not! Sometimes you have to choose to adapt to conquer and sometimes the things people have to do that you find risky is their saving grace! If you have been fortunate enough for you to be waited on hand and foot, god bless your family and your support system if that’s your thing, it’s not for me. We don’t all want or like to have that much of an accommodating experience to say it kindly. You may see me outside not knowing how long I have been there, if I’m walking or used a shuttle but there’s always a fool who will speak out of assumption that I can’t possibly know my body and what I need after living with myself over 35yrs. I’m not setting out to make a mockery of the illness, make it look like a cake walk because it’s certainly not, nor the surgery process but I am setting out to encourage people filled with fear that there’s a chance that it will not be a tragic event for them and they can have a positive outcome too! So when you see someone with a chronic illness, a fellow person who is battling Chiari Malformation or any sub conditions and they’re rocking it out, cheer them on and keep that hindering mess to yourself. Because honestly, all the “be careful, rest, use ice, use heat, you need to sleep, take your meds…” that’s not sincere, faux concept of concern that is easily discerned by some of us. I mean, the Drs give instructions on discharge so if there’s a person that’s truly gone crazy doing ridiculous stuff and not listening to their Dr, why do you think they’ll listen to you? They’re not. Choose to fight your way, cheer on your fellow friends how they have to fight. Same goal different strategies! And if it’s any consolation, I’m writing this out while laying down and unable to sleep as my pain meds aren’t working well tonight to help me sleep. So my next step is lavender oil and meditation and nature sounds playing. To give you some online resources from credible sources that state to walk, move etc just as my Dr has- http://www.mayfieldchiaricenter.com/chiari_surgery.php http://www.neurosurgeonsofnewjersey.com/after-chiari-malformation-surgery/

Acceptance of Adversity.

“By accepting reality of circumstances, illness, situations, finances, family matters, friendships or all else you can think of, you can face your reality and present life in truth not delusions with false hopes. Accepting gives a place of freedom, freedom to gain strength, gain faith in not knowing how but knowing it shall be, peace in knowing what is for me is for me and a hedge of divine protection hovers around me…..whom and what shall I fear when I am fearfully and wonderfully made as I know I shall live and not perish?” -Mel’O

During the first few weeks of me being diagnosed with Chiari Malformation Type 1 (CM1), I was accepted to a model call that was capturing stages of grief. Ironically, I had just reached that stage with this condition physically, mentally and spiritually. The photographer did not know that until we began to talk some and I told her about the condition, my symptoms and so forth. She was eager to get me in the shoot for this section to represent acceptance.

Having been given many various teachings religiously over the years, I have often heard that you don’t accept illnesses because Gods word says we are healed. What I have came to realize is this, if I’m denying being “ill” to begin with then how can God heal it when I am claiming nothing exists? There is power in the tongue indeed! However, many feel this is giving power to whatever is plaguing you, no, it’s not at all. Until you accept it, you can’t have any control over how it’s affecting you but if you do, you can control how you react to it, you can work on healing methods and watch faith rain more favor in areas of healing. I’ve heard people refuse to say “I was diagnosed with….” whatever illness, disease or condition because it’s “against God” they’d say. Well I beg to differ because Job for example had much suffering and he admitted it and accepted it all while clinging to his faith! Denying “it” will not make it go away. Denying it is denying God the chance to handle it!

Some people will not accept certain physical gifts because they didn’t like it, it was cheap, they don’t like the color, don’t know how to use it, it was a re-gift, it was used whatever…. that’s the same thing for illness in a sense, and no I am not saying illness is a gift but it can be if you turn it into one. Remember, everything we go through isn’t about us, it isn’t for us. Sometimes and quite often in fact it’s about how God wants to use us as gifts for others. There are thousands of people in support groups for CM1, they suffer or a loved one suffers from it. It’s also okay to say “suffer” because without admitting the state of the condition you cannot gain strength to conquer it. Nobody gains strength from lifting pillows, it takes some heavy weight. If we look at this in a biblical place, suffering is necessary and to expect it and be prepared. (2 Tim 2:3, 3:1-4, 13)

Like I was saying, it’s not about us always but even in the midst of whatever storm, God is doing something in us. Me for example, I had to overcome the concept of “people really won’t listen to me because of who I ‘was’ and now people really don’t know who I ‘am.'” Honestly, people closest to me have never really known me because I used to not feel free enough to be completely transparent or open. God changes that in me for the better every day, letting go of what others said I can’t or couldn’t do, wouldn’t do, shouldn’t say because I used to…. when those same people only know who I was not the “renewed” Mel. I have grown in accepting that there’s always going to be a naysayer, there’s always going to be a group of “haters”, shade throwers and mud slingers but as long as they’re listening and watching, seeds are getting planted, deliverance is setting people free and awareness is coming forth. I have felt like people won’t take me seriously because I am always upbeat and happy, even when I feel down or sick.

My passion is to make people laugh, find courage, strength in all things not be drained, I want to be the reason someone didn’t give up, I want to be a reason someone fought harder, I want to be the reason that somebody found their way back to Christ and directly with him, I want to be the reason somebody got off drugs, I want to be the reason that somebody stopped feeling ashamed because they used to be a harlot in the hood, I want to be the reason somebody stops being labelled the tramp in the trailer park,  I want to be the reason that somebody knows that a ho can become a housewife (oh yes, I did just say that God delivers all if you let him and all wrongs will be righted 2 Tim 3:8-9; 4:14), I want to be the reason that people know you can be a teen mother and still become greatness achieving goals overcoming obstacles, I want to be the reason that young women learn the value of their bodies and why we shouldn’t take on soul ties that are difficult to break once bound knotted in the womb of your spirit, I want to be the reason someone changed their lifestyle choices, I want to be the reason that someone kicked fear of talking about mental illness to the curb and got help, I want to be the reason someone stops stealing stuff and starts stealing souls for Christ, I want to be the reason someone was encouraged from tears of sadness to tears of joy…. I never want to be the reason someone feels sadness, pity, sympathetic for me. I want people to gain strength in my journey and join it learning because it’s not only my journey, it’s just the road I’m on, there’s many of us on this journey, just in different directions. It’s about not forgetting my purpose in midst of suffering, all of this is not for nothing and none of it is for me but to bring awareness not only to Chiari but many areas of suffering. When you come to accept that you are a prisoner of Christ, not of your own circumstances or other people (2 Tim 1:8) you can proceed without fail without a doubt that it is going to be a help to others in suffering. Now knowing, have lived through things I know the Lord will deliver from ALL Evil in his time and his way (2 Tim 4:17-18) But in the meanwhile, the heart should counsel according to the truth and promises of God. (Psalm 27)

I had to accept more than this condition, I had to accept me, I had to go back and accept who I was not just admit who I was, I had to dig deeper into myself and deal with those demons that were still whispering about “you know if you do this event at home they’re going to say…..” and I had to let the demons know, everyone has past transgressions and by going through the life I have lived somebody’s going to be free and I am free,  I have always touched people in a special way, you will not stop what God has for me to do. I accepted the challenge to follow my purpose. Not only of this condition but of foul treatment, backstabbing, lack of support and gossip old and new. Because without the mess, there’d be no message! The word says to be quick to praise Him and testify to others based on how the Lord has delivered you. (2 Tim 3:11; 4:16-17) I had to accept that when I do not have people I hope to support that I already have the presence of Christ because he never leaves even when I fall (Matt. 28:20) I have the prayers of the righteous- other believers (2 Tim. 1:3) an the fellowship of suffering with other believers who are also facing hardships for the sake of Christ. (2 Tim 1:8; Heb. 13:3; Col. 1:24).

Notice that none of these things have to do with me except me intent wise except finding myself, accepting myself. Until you can accept even your deepest flaws, failures, heart aches, wrongs, misfortunes, poor choices, not being the best person along with acknowledging your growth, potential, victories, fortunes, success, fruits of your labor, abilities, gifts and talents, there is no finding acceptance and without acceptance in all areas of yourself, you cannot help anyone else accept themselves or their circumstances. None of this is to receive an earthly reward or recognition on my behalf because all of your suffering, efforts, labors and faithfulness will be rewarded on “that Day” when believers stand before the Father. (2 Tim 1:12, 18; 2:12; 4:8; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; James 1:12). If this illness were to be the gateway that God calls me on, I want my cup to be empty, I want to be used up, I want every part of my life to be a stepping stone for others, I want others to know there’s hope, there’s always a better day ahead and just hold on in the press.

If Chiari has done anything, it has opened my eyes spiritually more on myself. Lots of fear of failure leave my body daily. Just because someone says you can’t, you shouldn’t, someone else will be better suited for the job, you keep getting passed over and you may even feel discouraged, you might be sick and feel like you aren’t getting well, you might hate to mention you are ill and might even have something people don’t understand or something you feel ashamed about, let every trial become a chapter in your testimony. Everyone will not understand your journey, everyone is not meant to be a part of your press, many will turn against you, many will linger along just to watch silently hoping you fail just to talk about you but REMEMBER, they talked about Jesus straight to the cross up until the moment he hung his head and died! So pick up your cross, look onward to him by faith and keep on going up the Kings Highway!

Mel’O Theory

Here’s me in the moment of acceptance, after prior morning meditation and fellowship during the session with the photographer. I was shaking and trembling during this shoot, not because I was nervous but because of symptoms onset. I was not balanced and had to stand in different positions several times to try to capture as many photos as possible. By the time I made it home, I was totally out of spoons, I was done for. Yet beforehand,  I claimed my peace over this that morning and I refused to hold on to the “well the Dr said I shouldn’t work, drive etc until….” I know my limits and I pushed them a little that morning but never will I allow this to discourage, only to encourage and make people aware that there are many people with chronic illnesses that don’t look sick, you cannot visibly see all illnesses so don’t ever think for a second someone is just over exaggerating or being dramatic. There are many illnesses that cause suffering, Chron’s, Lupus, IBS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sickle Cell Anemia, digestive issues, gallbladder issues, pancreatitis, migraines, depression, bi-polar disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases, asthma, allergies,  alcoholism, drug abuse and/or addiction, hypertension, thyroid disease, liver disease (not related to alcohol as well), HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and the latter two mentioned are not always contracted sexually, from having many sex partners or sharing needles, some contract from one partner, a blood transfusion or a baby born into it.

So with all of this said, I would appreciate anyone aiding in planning the 1st Annual Conquer Chiari Walk Across America 5K on September 16th, 2017 from 1p-4p at The Track at Dunbar, 286 Learning Way, Forest City NC. The goal set is not only to reach my monetary goal of $2,500 but also to raise awareness about as many health matters, drug use and abuse, mental health, community unity all in one place, together as one band of people supporting not only the Conquer Chiari Foundation as center stage but other conditions as well because Chiari comes with many other conditions as well. What matters is everyone feeling like there’s something for them. I am also seeking food vendors, ministers and pastors from community churches to join in leading prayer, a DJ that is willing to donate his/her time complimentary or a small fee, medical offices that are willing to come out and provide BP checks, blood sugar testing and information. I also hope to obtain a Mobile Red Cross Blood Drive on site, would love to have vendors selling their products and promoting services for a donation that goes directly to the foundation. All donations can receive a charitable donation receipt. There is also a need for prizes for raffle, if you own a hair salon, massage parlor, restaurant etc and would like to donate a gift certificate, hardware store or business to donate an item for raffle as top prize would be greatly appreciated as well.

For more information bout Chiari Malformation go to www.conquerchiari.org and for inquires on how to donate, volunteers and planning please email me at: conquerchiari.mel410@gmail.com

The face of acceptance. Walking in purpose. Bringing vision to life.

Facing Chiari

“When life gives you a hand of a game you’ve never played, you learn to play it, you learn to play it better and you help others learn to deal and conquer along the way.” -Mel’O

Back in mid-February I noticed I felt congested and like (to be honest) I had something in my nose that just would not come out with blowing my nose. I felt the urgency to look in my nose because it felt like something was there in my right nostril limiting my nasal passage as well as irritating me with each inhalation. I looked in my nose and knew immediately, “Nasal Polyps”. I called my PCP (primary care physician) the next morning to make an appointment and sure enough, “Nasal Polyps”. Not only in one nostril, but both. ENT referral submitted for that. Meanwhile, I had expressed other symptoms that didn’t add up to the nasal polyps and being I was prior diagnosed (now believed to be misdiagnosed) with fibromyalgia and again, some symptoms just didn’t add up, so she wanted a CT scan of my brain to check for a tumor, lesions or stroke damage. (MS and fibromyalgia are very similar in symptoms as well as lupus oftentimes so in case of new developments on my brain we needed to know.)

The CT results came in, report showing that I had inflammation on my brain which lead to the further ordering of testing by way of an MRI. The MRI report was sent to my PCP where I had another follow-up and As of April 10, 2017 at that visit, I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation type 1. My PCP was shocked, I sat there stunned a minute as she was puzzled as well because this was not on the idea list in anyway of what could have been causing me to have the symptoms of- hearing impairment, swooshing and thumping sounds in my ears, vertigo, difficulty swallowing at times almost choking, neck pain and pressure, numbness and shakiness in limbs, legs worsening with weakness and pain at times, extreme fatigue, insomnia, peripheral vision issues and blurriness to name just a few things.  Furthermore, I had never heard of this condition and as much Dr. House, Grey’s that I have watched and not to mention cases I booked in the OR, I had not a single clue, it was a foreign language to me. My PCP telling me there was no medication she could prescribe, no therapy she could order and I needed to see a neurologist to get to a neurosurgeon in order to get care for this, I just sat there taken away for a minute. In all honesty, I wasn’t scared, I didn’t panic, I didn’t become afraid and I still am not even after asking her, “well there’s a cure right?” and she responded with a face of disappointment, “there’s no cure.” Even in the moments of my deepest concern hearing those words repeat in my head, “there’s no cure”, I drown those words with faith in knowing “I have been healed before.” God’s word tells us that no weapon formed will “prosper”, he didn’t say they wouldn’t form.

“What Is Chiari Malformation?
a serious neurological disorder where the bottom part of the brain, the cerebellum, descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord, putting pressure on both the brain and spine and causing many symptoms.” (ConquerChiari.org)

Common symptoms amongst 95% of Chiari Patients, patients typically experience at least five of the following symptoms:

Then we get to the frustrations, which I have actually been able to keep limited. Finding a neurologist or a neurosurgeon who has experience in this condition is like pointing out a flea on a dogs back. The knowledge and experience of this condition simply isn’t out there and it’s saddening. 1 in 1000 children are born with this condition, many adults acquire it in their 20’s and 30’s without having any signs or symptoms of it prior, even some have had it discovered without any symptoms. My first referral was a neurologist who specializes in migraines and botox to treat them, no experience with Chiari. In the entire state of NC, there are practically two options that I found to be best for me, one neurosurgeon at Duke Neurosurgical and one Dr. in Hendersonville, NC, Dr. Rosner who specializes in Chiari. Duke has a well known, highly reputable medical center, their basketball team…. well, Go Tarheels (lol)! Anyway, Dr. Isaac Karikari, MD is the next stop.

What does my average day feel like? It really changes from day to day, just as it has been from the original diagnosis of having fibromyalgia. The weather effects how I feel, sometimes it can be a beautiful day but if I do too much “living” for the day, I pay for it for several days to follow oftentimes. I am never not in pain in some part of my body, it’s just a matter of adapting and pushing forward, mind over matter so to speak. There are times I am scared to drive because of vertigo, sometimes peripheral vision lacks and vision all together blurred. This also discourages me from reading, hinders me from understanding text written or sent in emails and not to mention the brain fog of just feeling plain stupid at times like I am incompetent and my brain is fried in that moment. I now have a decrease in appetite and even when I can and do eat, I feel nauseous a lot, the last few days I have vomited and had stomach upset even with water and eating light with soup, crackers, things like that.  I am running a low grade fever of 99.4 which I notice has happened several days a month for at least the last year. All of the symptoms of “fibromyalgia” I have dealt with the last two years or so. Memory loss, I blamed on mom brain for so long but it’s way more than mom brain. I cannot find important things that usually I would easily know where they are like birth certificates, immunization records and records of house repairs. I also forget things like where I left my shoes, my purse, hair brush, often lose cell phone, keys and phone chargers, forget password combinations and other things like events that are regularly scheduled.

What is the treatment process?

Do people want pity or special attention because of having a chronic illness/disability? No, certainly not the majority, especially me. What most people want who have this condition or any condition is simply understanding, respect as anyone else and awareness about their condition, most of all- cures and prevention! There is very little understanding to both fibromyalgia and chiari malformation. So I have felt like I am a magnet to these weird diagnosis’s that have no great treatments, not top of the list for medical research or breakthroughs, people think it’s all in your head, you’re a hypochondriac, you’re making the pain up because “oh it really can’t be that bad is it?” because “you don’t look sick” and “you were just out yesterday doing…” What people don’t get is chronic illnesses suck, not only physically but mentally because you get sick of feeling it, the moment you feel like you can run a marathon and actually attempt it or even a potion you are set back way more than you already were. It’s like borrowing time and the interest rate is high because you never get the payoff of being 100%. “Looking normal” is only the beginning of the battle each day. Some people cannot even do that much. Would you tell a child “but you don’t look sick”? Probably not, so don’t say it to adults either. It’s like saying, “you’re lying.” Chiarians have plenty proof they’re not lying about the condition and the symptoms that come with a diagnosis. For example, one day I posted a selfie on FB and of course people commented “beautiful”, “you look great” and so on. But my caption was about being a #FibroWarrior (Fibromyalgia) and one commenter said, “You never look sick.” See, I get it, it’s meant as a compliment but it’s really not. You cannot possibly think you see people 24/7 in their lives, you don’t see the mornings where it’s a fight to get out of bed because of debilitating pain, stiffness, exhaustion, fatigue then the 3 hours that it took to get cleaned up, put on a bra, matching “real clothes” besides sweats, yoga pants and a huge shirt because yes even clothes hurt sometimes. Just this week, I posted a selfie and similar occurrence with someone assuming in a message, “So I guess the condition isn’t that serious, what is it? You look amazing. Why are you seeing a neuro?” Well, my response probably could have been nicer but it wasn’t because it was an immediate reaction and running on 2-ish hours of sleep. The thing was, just a few hours prior I was crying my eyes out because I could hardly stand to walk straight. Most know when it rains, if you have an issue- it goes nuts! I was bawling and ready to just curl up in a ball and be over the day and it wasn’t even noon. But then I dug deep in myself and said, put on some clothes (comfy but cute), do your makeup, put on your Lipsense and smile like life is worth living even in this pain and that is what I did! So posting selfies is seeking affirmation of others? Certainly not in my case, it’s a seal of conquering another moment at a crossroad where I could’ve gave up or got up and I chose to get up and fight, war paint and all. Not every chronically ill person will do as I do but this is my way. Some days I simply can’t can and that’s okay, we all have them at some point but I have it set in my mind that unless you are in my very close circle, you will never see me “look sick”.

 You don’t see the tears that fall early morning, midday, late night because the pain onset even more and all that person wanted was a little more time of “less pain”. See, most of us have become so used to it, we aren’t even praying that it goes away sometimes, we find ourselves just asking for “less” and more tolerance. You don’t see that she almost fell over from losing her balance 2 minutes before, you don’t see when a family member or spouse has to help him sit up, get out of the tub or keep steady because of dizziness, you don’t see that we really aren’t even sure if the cute selfie was really good because of blurry vision, you don’t see the swollen hands holding the phone taking the selfie or us-ie with kids or a pet, the swollen feet that are stood on, the shaky hands that hold the phone praying for a steady moment to capture quickly. Many of us can make “sick look sexy, silly and suave” because we are more than the illness, we are still who we are, we are simply fighting our way through every second of every minute of every hour of every day. You cannot see the moments a mother makes the decision if she will vacuum today or fold the laundry that has sat in the dryer for 3 days because little Jacob needs clean socks for school, she’s washed the load in the washer twice now to keep it from mildew because she cannot bend to unload it and her husband is away with work or she’s a military spouse hundreds of miles away from family without support and her husband is deployed. You don’t see the pain, you don’t feel the pain but please never speak as though it does not exist because you only see the strength.

I’ve mentioned “she” a lot through this because most who are affected by Chiari are women, there are boys and men affected but more often women. So please don’t think men aren’t suffering or that I am ignoring that fact that men have been diagnosed, became zipper heads and still in the ring for the full 12 rounds.

Help us Conquer Chiari by learning about the illness, being supportive and making others aware as well as be a voice with us on research, prevention and a cure. For more information, visit the Conquer Chiari Foundation. If you are interested in joining us in the annual Conquer Chiari Walk Across America: http://www.conquerchiari.org/ccwaa/ccwaa-main.html (my host location is Forest City, NC keep in touch for update on that if interested.) Also check out the event listing page on Facebook CCWAA17 FC. Early Registration deadline is August 16th to register online on the Conquer Chiari website linked above. Donation requests of $25 to receive an official walk t-shirt. All donations go to the nonprofit organization formally known as C&S Foundation (Chiari & Syringomelia) for medical research, education and patient resources. 

Learn more about the CCRC (research center) here:

Grow as you sow.

This move is showing me something so real. If you are young, just starting out, a new couple etc, keep reading and I hope it gives you some hope and encouragement.

When my husband and I first decided to unite and cohabitate under the same roof, we had very little “things” in the apartment, a bed, a TV (nothing like the fancy flat screens you have to fight for on black Friday now but the very first tube style flat screens), a desktop computer and desk, one pot n pan set, a casserole dish, a Dutch oven, a plate set and few glasses. No living room furniture, no wall hangings but a coffee table lol. Soon after we did get a dining set and living room furniture and decor. We worked for the “things” we wanted to have and could’ve ran to a store and done a fine credit account to buy but he was adamant to not build debt when we truly had all we “needed”. We never went without any necessary items to live but took a little time on the luxury things. (Within 3 months we had the extras)

We moved from VA to CA into a bigger place (due to his career). In CA we built more to our lives. There I said, I didn’t wanna be in another apartment, townhouse or close to or attached to another person or people. I honestly didn’t think he was listening to my ideas on that at the time because he has always been frugal and wants to have money and not just look like we have came up. So from CA to Eastern NC we went next. I flew ahead of him as I had my fill of 29 Palms coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions, heat, dead town, freezing cold- you name it! Anyways, he came in to NC, I was with family and he decided to go into Jacksonville to check out places to stay and secure a home. Never was indicated he was even remotely considering buying a house. In fact, the slickster implied renting. I was like okay whateverssss. Well,one afternoon like he had been doing, sent me a pic message with an advertising of a house and said “what do you think?” I said something along the lines of -nice yard and I would like to see inside better and how many rooms and baths? He replied, “good I just bought it!” I was blue faced, literally mouth gaped open like a pelican after dinner and borderline pissed off. His mission was to surprise me and give me what I asked for.

Again, the house- at first seemed a bit empty vs the cozier places we lived prior. But we gained more and more. When we left we had what felt was “too much stuff”. ENC to HI. Got here, seemed empty and as we worked we got more “stuff”. Now leaving HI, I was just looking at how much we have and I smiled and laughed thinking about how we were so “underprivileged” to start and now I am losing it trying to get rid of things, giveaway, resell etc.

Looking back on how we mainly had love, just a few items, to now excess of pots and pans to include that Wal-Mart brand starter kit (now ‘good’ pots and pans- everyone has something they call their ‘good pot’ lol) , furnishings and decor etc. We also have more children, more wisdom, more life and lived through more lessons but we still have more love and survived more struggles!

So, believe that you can grow from where you are if you just stay with it, build as you go and “things” don’t make your residence a home- you do. Home is wherever you are and where your heart is no matter if its a house, an apartment, a townhouse, a rambler in the desert, in between places etc. There will be storms, there will be struggles as soon as you think you are in the clear! There will be road blocks that look like obstacles but are truly detours to a safer route.
There will also always be those naysaying, negative Nathaniel and Nancy’s who are quick to remind you of what you do not have or how you could be doing, those who will have a lot of “stuff” you do not have at the time, always suggesting that you need to do this or that. Ignore the ones who have these suggestions yet are truly wasteful and unstable themselves. You will know who means well and who does not.

Keep striving and believing and the good lord will triple your inventory and your story!

Love & Peace.

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Levels of Exclusion

Have you ever been involved in a group where you felt like you weren’t really wanted because you were well, lets just say, “different” or just “too much”? Yet, you knew very well that those involved or coming to this group or organization could totally benefit from your being and experience so you kept going. See, there are usually a few kinds of people when it comes to volunteer work and groups and organizations involving such. What many do not know is I have done my fair share on many levels and always been a benefit more than a bene-flop. Yes, I did just make that up but it is my blog so just bene-flow with it okay! (AND REFOCUS)

I have sat and looked back over the different journey’s of being a hand to help someone or many people I have been fortunate to be a part of whether it was community volunteering, in the church, with the homeless, the less fortunate, the military families or whatever, there were levels of doers, levels of downers unfortunately and one more I will get to shortly. The doers were those that are just happy to be able to do for others, encourage others to do, help others to do, want to be a blessing to others while doing  not just to be seen and heard but because what they are doing are actually is from their heart and soul, not only for self gratification and to say “Did you see what I did, did you know how much I did?”

Then we have the downers who only like for certain groups of people to do, particular social standards, certain social groups, as for military wives- certain ranks are often of most importance, in churches you must have a leadership title or a position to be of importance to be noticed to serve or pay a certain amount into that offering plate or your “service” is not counted as a high value in some places of worship, in some organizations if you are not on every known board in town and from a well known local family with many connections your “service” will go unnoticed and unspoken of but as soon as you cross someone, surely, your name will be recalled but not how they know you.

I left out one level above because I want to go into depth on that more here, the disablers. The disablers will go as far as completely disabling your mission to succeed or continue, may even be outright hateful or attempt to belittle you in midst of your peers to steer you away from giving your time, efforts or finances if that applies. I mean, these people will darn near hurt themselves to try to destroy you and make you look bad. This kind of person will go through great lengths to sabotage you beyond the connection of volunteering, working together or whatever it is you are doing to totally distract and destruct to make sure you are out of their spotlight. You will never feel right with this level of people and you will know immediately almost upon interaction with them, especially if you are one to present ideas, are outspoken or communicate freely.

Now, what can I say? There is absolutely nothing we can do about any of these negative players but play harder or play around them, most of all- be as silent as possible.  The best way to beat a fool is to ignore their antics or counter in a measure they will not expect. If they expect you to quit, keep going. If they expect you to be angry, smile and bring even more fresh new ideas with a vibrant face of determination even if you are ready to strangle them in the bathroom. But please do NOT strangle them in the bathroom unless it is ONLY in your mind!! (lol) Trust me, I have been there! What people don’t understand is, often the ones they push away actually have vital experience and possibly do not offer to help more simply because of knowing they are in a setting of “downers and disablers” with very few “doer” hearts.

Sometimes people are so fixated on the exterior, they cannot learn anything about what is inside of a person to build for the common goal of benefiting others. Oftentimes, many are so focused on looking like the very best helper, getting the “teachers pet” award instead of just doing what is right. When we do what is right for the right reasons, our work speaks for us much later, we do not have to read every line out loud to the world as it is written.

In my own life, I have had people attempt to exclude me because they didn’t like my boldness, my tenacity, my lack of political correctness, but also not caring what people think about me because everyone will always have an opinion from the moment they lay eyes on you regardless of how much or how little you say. Have I ever given up? Certainly, because every battle is not meant to be fought and not every mission is mine to conquer or complete. But what people think of me or want me to do, Do I care? No, because “my life” is not anyone else’s to exclude me from! So with all of that to say this, do not let anyone ever exclude you from anything in “your” life. Take control of your life, stand firm, be a true doer if you wish, tell those downers and disablers to kick rocks! You might be different, you might not fit their vision but you fit Gods vision, you might not be the societal norm but you are your norm, you might not be a stick figure but you are healthy and alive, you might have weird hair, you might be new but once they were too, you might not be an officers, deacons, or city council members spouse but you are YOU! Being you is the best thing because you are original, you aren’t trying to keep up or fit in, you aren’t trying to please anyone but you and God or whoever your faith is with, you can be confident being you! A magnificent and wonderful you!

 

Indication of a monarch

Often we see people, places and the world right around us evolve, change, decompose, erode, flourish, grow, nourish, become motivated, become stagnant etc. But whatever the case may be, we take notice and to be even more, “real” we often criticize instead of energize. Wait, what?, right? Yes, I too am guilty and have sentenced myself to punishments suitable. However, I have learned from those experiences as I have also been, more so, on the end of the needing energizing instead of criticizing.

The monarch is known as the “king” of butterflies hence it’s name. There are four stages to a single life cycle and they go through four generations in one year. I know, are we talking about people or butterflies? Just keep reading. The four stages include the egg, the larvae (what we know as the caterpillar) the pupa (chrysalis) and then we finally have an adult butterfly. Now, look at this, nobody enjoys or appreciates the eggs, some find the caterpillar interesting-some find them creepy, some like to watch the pupa only to see the moment that the butterfly will hatch and spread it’s wings. Now, this is like us, as people, nobody appreciates us when we are in an egg state, they cannot see the outward beauty we will have from such an unappealing exterior in the future, nobody has time to be patient with the fuzzy caterpillar and very few will stand by waiting, watching, praying, cheering, motivating, energizing, encouraging, protecting you from falling before you can fly while still in your chrysalis. But the moment you begin to shine in all your glory as a full grown butterfly, you’ve survived, you’ve weathered the storms, you’ve endured, you’ve been left behind, you’ve been cast out of the in crowds, you’ve been put down because during your caterpillar hours, your vision was not where theirs was, you did not yet have your wings to soar with the rest of the monarchy. When you were an egg, you were a sticky mess, you didn’t look like anything that ever had been blessed. When you were in your final stage of the chrysalis, it took longer for you to come out and fly than they did so they left you behind, they flew off and talked about you….. but unknowing, it wasn’t your season. See, the Monarch comes out in February or March to find a mate, then they migrate in a northern or eastern direction to lay their eggs and begin the new first generation for the following year.

Now, reflect- in each and every single stage, you are in a full generation of life! It does NOT matter what your current situation looks like, no matter if you are just an egg or if you are now reproducing your first generation, know that every stage is necessary to fly! Forward on, March & April eggs are laid on milkweed plants and hatch out caterpillars. When you have a baby caterpillar stage, it won’t do anything more than eat the milkweed so it can grow into a grown one in about a two weeks timeframe. Now comes a stage where that “weird, fuzzy, slow, fat, antisocial…..” caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis. Now it will attach itself to a stem, and transform. Like people, sometimes some people distance themselves to a “stem and transform”. Sometimes we have to hang by ourselves, to become beautiful creatures. It often feels like we are literally turned upside down on a stem, being wrapped in a chrysalis, the old us smothered out, transformed so our new can emerge. But only then are we appreciated, not many will appreciate when you were an egg, that you had to be alone, you struggled getting a stem of your own, you went south instead of north to find your mate and had eggs….. still looking- went west instead of east for a mate, no eggs but still not in right direction and wrong climate and environment can be near fatal or fatal…. some of your eggs didn’t make it, some of your eggs didn’t hatch, some of the eggs were “different” so somebody has made you feel less than because of that. But on this day, let this “analogy” of sorts be encouragement to you to embrace whatever stage you are in, whatever generation you are in, accept that you are living and growing, when it is your time to fly, you will. Just remember, a moth is formed in a cocoon- made of soft exterior while a butterfly has a chrysalis that is a harder exterior. What would you rather be? Some that will look at you in negative light don’t even realize, you indicate the creation of a monarch. Just embrace it, besides the monarch tastes horrible to its predators. Your life process alone is enough to kill the ones who don’t mean well.